2014’s biggest games: 11 of 14 fail safety test

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is presented in anime style--an animation format that people with photosensitive epilepsy should avoid. Not surprisingly, it failed the safety test.

Animation used in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is Japanese animé style–a bold, flash-filled format that people with photosensitive epilepsy should avoid. Not surprisingly, the game failed the safety test.

It’s that time of year when lots of major video games are released, in advance of the holiday shopping season. The marketing build-up has been underway for many months, with snippets of game play shown at industry events and in reviews and cinematic trailers. By testing these snippets I can find out which of these games are likely to create a risk to people vulnerable to visually induced seizures.

The year’s “biggest” games

The editorial staff of GamesBeat (part of tech publication VentureBeat) has already published an “early holiday gaming guide” with its choices for this year’s most eagerly anticipated titles.  So far I’ve tested what GamesBeat editors consider the biggest games to be released soon for multiple platforms. In upcoming posts I’ll share test results on their choices for PC-based games and for games exclusively built for Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft gaming platforms.

Of the 14 multi-platform games, only 3 appear to pose little risk of photosensitive seizures. Images that could provoke photosensitive seizures were found in all the other games.

Assassin's Creed: Unity, Assassin's Creed: Rogue, NBA 2K15, Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Super Heroes, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Skylanders: Trap Team, Alien: Isolation, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, The Crew, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, The Evil Within, WWE 2K15NOTE:  Subsequent testing of The Evil Within (using the final cutscene) on 11/13/2014 revealed that–as shown in this chart–the game fails the seizure safety test. My apologies to anyone who was misled by the original version of this post, in which I listed the game as safe.

Methodology 

To determine whether a video game is safe for individuals susceptible to visually induced seizures, I run them through a photosensitive seizure safety analyzer, the Harding Flash and Pattern Analyzer. The FPA is widely used by producers and networks in the UK—including by the BBC—to ensure seizure safety of all material on broadcast TV. It examines video sequences for very specific and measurable image qualities that researchers have found can trigger seizures:

  • rapidly alternating light and dark images (flash/flicker)
  • certain stripes and geometric patterns with high contrast
  • large areas of very bright (“saturated”) red
  • problem images take up more than one fourth of the screen

Visual safety criteria for video sequences are precisely defined in this document used by regulators of broadcast TV in the UK. The criteria were arrived at based on extensive clinical testing.

If the first clip I test of a game fails the safety test, I note that and move on to test the next game. I typically test at least 4 or 5 additional clips of a game if no safety violations are found. I don’t do this testing while actually playing these video games. Instead I work with video clips available online, some of which are official marketing and gameplay trailers; others are gameplay sessions posted by reviewers or fans. I do not test fans’ sequences from games that were modified with other software.

Disclaimer

Your results could vary. Games I’ve listed as safe could have seizure-provoking sequences that I was unable to locate. Furthermore, the seizure threshold of individuals is affected by a number of factors including illness, hunger, stress, fatigue, and the player’s menstrual cycle, among others. So a game that seems OK the first time it’s played may trigger a seizure under different conditions.


5 Comments on “2014’s biggest games: 11 of 14 fail safety test”

  1. Rachel says:

    Thank you! I have epilepsy and kids. My son is 7 and wants to be into video games. He loves to play on our smart phones and with his cousin at his cousin’s house. I was wondering if a certain console/platform (am I using that right?) is better than another? I would love to play with him, but would like to lesson the risk of seizures (especially since I’d probably only play with him when my husband is unavailable because he is at work.

    • jsolodar says:

      Rachel,
      Good question. It’s really the games themselves rather than the actual platform that matters, but different platform manufacturers may have different levels of concern about seizure-inducing images. Last year I tested recommended-for-holiday-giving games by platform, and those results are probably a reasonable showing of which platforms are more likely to publish games with a higher seizure risk. Consistent with those findings, I have heard very unofficially that Microsoft is requiring Xbox games to pass the Harding test.

      Jessica

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you!

  2. Ridley says:

    Wow, that’s a neat test. Good on you for doing it for people. I had no idea so many games could cause seizures in those prone to them. Thought it was more rare…things ya learn.

  3. Erika says:

    Your appreciate your time and research so much! Thank you


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